From Army Vet to MS Patient to Doctor

Jamila Kendall was serving as a U.S. Army labor and delivery nurse in Germany when she began having strange symptoms – fatigue, pain that would come and go, and burning and tingling in her fingers. A spinal tap and MRI provided the answer. Kendall had multiple sclerosis.

The diagnosis was a relief; after suffering symptoms for so long, now finally she knew. It dramatically altered her life, personally and professionally. Today, the Brooklyn, NY, native learned where she will continue her training in physical medicine and rehabilitation.

Jamila and Leon KendallAfter the 2010 diagnosis, Kendall retired as an Army captain under a medical discharge. Stationed in Augusta, GA, earlier in her military life, she decided to head for Atlanta. Here she met her future husband, Leon. The couple married on Nov. 11, 2011 – 11/11/11.

She also began treatment at the Shepard Center, where proper medication helped control her symptoms. Kendall began working again, going from a Shepard patient to a Shepard nurse. She also renewed her determination to become a doctor, enrolling at MSM. As an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania, Kendall started out majoring in pre-med and nursing but dropped pre-med when the workload proved too grueling. And when college bills piled up, Kendall signed up for ROTC, which led to her military career.

Her choice of specialty was driven by her own patient experiences. A PMR doctor, like those she worked with at Shepard, aims to enhance and restore functional ability and quality of life to those with physical impairments or disabilities affecting the brain, spinal cord, nerves, bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons. Unlike other medical specialties that focus on a “cure,” the goal here is to maximize patients’ independence and improve quality of life.

“These are usually the ‘worst of the worst’ cases, severe trauma, neurological diseases (like MS, which affects the brain and spinal cord) and so forth. A PMR doctor heads a team of health care professionals whose goal is to get the patient back to as close to a normal life as possible.”

Kendall also thinks her disease will make her a better doctor and advocate for those with MS and other “invisible” disabilities.

“I can ask questions of my patients that they may not be thinking about and help fine-tune things for them.”

The captain leaves MSM more than ready for the battles ahead.